Gland and the Environment
Well-recognized thyroid expert, Broda Barnes,
MD, estimated approximately 40% of the American adult population suffers
from undiagnosed hypothyroidism.
Subnormal thyroid function appears to be a risk factor for cancer.
Iodine is a major component of the thyroid gland. Improper thyroid
function, be it hypothyroid, or hyperthyroid, appears to be a risk
factor for cancer among the general population.1
Iodine deficiency has been associated with breast cancer risk. Iodine
deficiency can be a matter of geography, or induced by any number of
environmental stressors. Dr. Bernard Eskin, Director of Endocrinology
in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Medical College
of Philadelphia found an association between iodine deficiency and
breast cancer. Dr. Eskin's research uncovered a high incidence
of breast cancer in iodine poor areas of the United States, Poland,
Switzerland, and Austria, where goiter is also predominant. Japan and
Iceland have the world's lowest rates of goiter and breast cancer
deaths. Iodine rich sea vegetables are important staples of Japanese
cuisine, and iodine rich seafood makes up a large part of the Icelandic
In addition to dietary deficiencies, thyroid function can be adversely
affected by drugs, chemical pollutants, and radiation exposure.1
Drugs and Chemicals
Manmade compounds also assault the
thyroid gland. Thyroid function can be suppressed by certain drugs
and chemicals – antidiabetic
and sulfa drugs; barbiturates that contain cyanide; prednisone; estrogen
(birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy); some cough
medicines; the antidepressant lithium; aspirin and other salicylate
painkillers; and thousands of chemical food additives in processed
Perchlorate is a potent environmental toxin that inhibits iodine uptake
by the thyroid gland. Perchlorate is a by-product of synthetic fertilizers
and solid propellants for rockets, missiles, and fireworks. Perchlorate
salts are a component of airbag inflators. It has been leached into
surface and underground water supplies.1
Pesticides used on domestic and international air flights pose an additional
risk to thyroid suppression. Tralomethrin, a commonly used airline
pesticide spray, contains bromide, which caused thyroid disease in
"Statistics show that populations drinking fluoridated water have
universally lower thyroid levels," states Jerry Mittelman, DDS,
editor of The Holistic Dental Digest PLUS.
Fluoride is an intensely controversial
subject, praised by some for protecting against tooth decay, and condemned
by others as a major risk factor for cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis,
It is almost impossible to avoid fluoride in our culture. Fluoride
is added to more than half the municipal water supplies in the U.S.
Bottled juices, soft drinks, iced teas, wine coolers, jellies, and
other processed foods are often made with fluoridated water. If consumers
wish to know if their favorite brand of bottled or canned beverage
is made with fluoridated water, they must call the company and ask.
Nearly all supermarket brands of toothpastes, and many brands sold
in health food stores contain fluoride. However, it is possible to
find some brands of toothpaste in health food stores that do not contain
Our exposure to fluoride can start during infancy, and in some cases
in utero. Some brands of baby foods contain high levels of fluoride.
Children may be given fluoride tablets or rinses at school, or by their
Studies done with Danish female cryolite workers showed fluorosis in
the teeth of offspring that had been nursed, raising the possibility
that fluoride can even be passed through breast milk. Cryolite is a
compound of aluminum, sodium and fluorine. There are animal studies
that show fluoride's effect on fertility and that it easily crosses
the placenta. Richard Foulkes, MD, indicates that, "after 46
years of fluoridating drinking water, no study had taken place on the
effect of fluoride on the developing fetus!"6 How long-term exposure
to fluoride may affect the thyroid glands of Americans is not known,
nor does there seem to be much interest in finding out.
Tobacco and Alcohol
One of the nasty ingredients in cigarette smoke is thyocyanide, a strong
thyroid inhibitor that further compounds the many health risks of
heavy smokers and those around them. Smoking harms the thyroid gland
by decreasing the thyroid's ability to secrete hormones, and
by limiting the hormones' action. Smokers are more prone to
have enlarged thyroid glands indicating subclinical hypothyroidism.1
Alcohol is a highly refined carbohydrate, and requires the whole complement
of B vitamins for proper metabolism. A deficiency of B-6 reduces the
thyroid's ability to convert iodine into thyroid hormone.1
Soy and Other Foods
Some foods including soy, walnuts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale can
contribute to low thyroid function if eaten frequently, and in large
amounts. Hypothyroid individuals are advised to consume these items
cautiously until their condition is corrected with supplemental thyroid
Many health-conscious Americans are reducing their consumption of meat
and dairy products. Instead of making some serious dietary changes,
such as consuming more pure water, vegetables, and fruits, they are
merely switching over to soy meat substitutes, soymilk substitutes,
soy cheese substitutes, and soy ice cream substitutes.
Most of the soy raised in this country has been for animal consumption.
The agricultural industry has been quick to recognize that human consumption
opens up vast new markets for their soy crop. Every health magazine
touts the benefits of soy products informing the reader how Japanese
have such a low incidence of breast and other cancers, and that Japanese
diets contain more soy than do Americans. The Japanese use small amounts
of fermented soy products in their diets, and drink green tea, not
soymilk. Also missing in this health discussion is the fact that Japanese
consume a great deal more iodine rich sea vegetables than do Americans.
Iodine is very supportive of healthy thyroid function. This may be
the real reason the Japanese have a lower incidence of breast cancer.
We're not likely to see the sea vegetable industry duel it out
with the soy industry. Let the consumer beware.
Soy has been known to interfere with thyroid function for over 60 years.
What are often referred to as the beneficial isoflavones have been
identified as the goitrogenic component of soy. The soy industry acknowledges
that soy can depress thyroid function, but only when there is a lack
of iodine. A patient consuming a soy protein dietary supplement was
reported by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, to have a decrease
in thyroxine absorption. The patient was taking thyroid hormones following
thyroid surgery. When the patient consumed soy she required higher
oral doses of thyroid hormone.7
The Weston Price Foundation warns that, "Soy phytoestrogens are
potent antithyroid agents that cause hypothyroidism and may cause thyroid
cancer. Soy foods can stimulate the growth of estrogen dependent tumors
. . .Soy phytoestrogens disrupt endocrine function and have the potential
to cause infertility and to promote breast cancer in adult women."8
This is not to say that all soy is bad. Some women find a welcome relief
from menopausal symptoms when consuming a moderate amount of soy products.
Soybeans have been genetically modified to tolerate increased doses
of the herbicide, Roundup. When purchasing any soy food try to get
organic, or non-GMO soy products.
The connection between radiation exposure
and thyroid cancer is well established. Less well known is the connection
exposure and breast cancer. Women who received X-irradiation for
tuberculosis, scoliosis, acne, postpartum breast swelling, and benign
breast disease have an increased incidence of breast cancer. Even "routine" chest
or dental X-rays are not completely risk-free.9
Women who receive significant radiation before age 20 are more likely
to develop breast cancer before age 35. Radiation-induced breast cancer
is increased when exposure occurs in adolescence and early childhood.
Japanese women who survived the atomic bomb have an increased incidence
of breast cancer. Strontium 90 is deposited in bones and teeth. Cesium
137 and its isotopes concentrate in soft tissue like the breast, liver,
spleen and muscles. Radioactive iodine is taken up by the thyroid gland.9
In the summer of 1997 the media carried a story about above ground
testing of nuclear bombs in Nevada from 1951 to 1958, which exposed
160 million Americans to radiation fallout as it traveled on air currents
across the nation. The invisible radioactive particulate matter precipitated
down with rain on areas as far away as New York, Massachusetts, Tennessee,
North and South Dakota, Idaho and Montana. The National Cancer Institute
(NCI) estimated that Iodine 131 fallout from the bomb tests could result
in 11,000 to 212,000 thyroid cancers in Americans in the following
We do not know how many hundreds of thousands of Americans may have
developed impaired or reduced thyroid function, nor do we know how
many cancers may have resulted from impaired thyroid function resulting
from bomb test fallout.
Women living on Long Island, (NY) have among the nation's highest
incidence of breast cancer. Long Island is situated in very close proximity
to four nuclear power reactors in New London and Middletown, CT, and
Peekskill, NY, with the Brookhaven nuclear lab right in the middle
of Long Island. Increases in breast cancer deaths in both Long Island
counties parallel the increase in breast cancer deaths in Connecticut,
where two reactors are located.9
There is sufficient data to substantiate the breast cancer-radiation
connection, but it is continually ignored. Most of the physicists and
MDs who were hired by the government to research the radiation cancer
connection during the 1950s and 1960s were let go, or had their funding
cut when the results showed a clear connection between radiation exposure
and cancer formation. Janette D. Sherman, MD, author of Life's
Delicate Balance: Causes and Prevention of Breast Cancer,
is herself an early radiation researcher. She points out that she and
colleagues in the field of radiation research, John Gofman, PhD, MD,
Jay Gould, PhD, Ernest Sternglass, PhD, Rosalie Bertell, PhD, are all
approaching, or in their eighth decade of life, and she worries about
who will continue their work.
While we no longer have above ground testing of nuclear bombs in this
country, Americans are exposed to consistent and steady fallout from
properly operating nuclear plants, which by design release radioactive
steam on a periodic basis to reduce pressure build-up. At a conference
sponsored by the Cancer Awareness Coalition, February 1995, this was
explained by physicist, Dr. Ernest Sternglass, who informed that all
nuclear power plants operate on a design principle formulated in the
1950s, even though our understanding of the health effects from airborne
radioactive particulate matter has progressed greatly in the 50 years
since then. Added to this are the cumulative exposures from multiple
medical and dental X-rays.
Dr. Mittleman commented on a study indicating a possible link between
dental X-rays to pregnant women and low birth-weight babies. Causality
was not proven, but it does raise another question about what sort
of damage might result to the newborn's thyroid gland from the
mother's exposure to dental or medical X-rays.3
As editor of the Holistic Dental Digest PLUS newsletter,
Dr. Mittleman strongly advises that a thyroid collar be used in addition
to the usual
protective drape when dental X-rays are taken. Another unanswered question
remains about how many patients did not, and still do not, receive
proper protection to the thyroid area when undergoing dental X-rays.
This health consumer always marvels at how radiologists and X-ray technicians
attempt to reassure patients by claiming how much less dosage the newest
state of the art technology uses. What they are not saying is how hazardous
the dosage was from older equipment, and how quickly today's
state of the art, low dose technology will soon be replaced by even
newer technology using even less radiation, rendering today's
equipment out of date. Not every hospital, X-ray lab, or dental office
has the most up-to-date equipment, and consumers are clueless about
how old the technology is, or how much radiation they are being exposed
to when they receive X-rays, or how much damage is being done to their
entire bodies as well as their thyroid gland.
1. Langer, S., MD, Solved: the
Riddle of Illness, Keats Pub., L.A.,
2. Colborn, T., PhD, Our Stolen Future,
Dutton Books (Penguin Group), NY, 1996.
3. Mittleman, J, DDS, "Fluoride and Your Thyroid," The
Holistic Dental Digest PLUS, (212–874–4212), #125, May/June
2000. (p. 8 RMW)
4. Connett, PhD, "The Absurdities of Water Fluoridation," Well-Being
Jrnl., (425–888–9393), July/Aug 2004.
5. Koph, C., Hannon, E., "Baby Foods Too High in Fluoride," TLfDP,
#177, April 1998.
6. Foulkes, R., MD, "The Fluoride Connection," TLfDP,
#177, April 1998.
7. Fallon, S, "Soy Alert! More Studies," Wise Traditions,
Vol. 4, No. 2, Summer 2000.
8. "Soy Alert!" flier, www.WestonAPrice.org, Wash, DC,
9. Sherman, J., MD, Life's Delicate Balance: Causes ad Prevention
of Breast Cancer, Taylor & Francis, NY, 2000.
"Health Risks and the Environment"
by Rose Marie Williams, MA
President of the Cancer Awareness Coalition, Inc.
P.O. Box 533, New Paltz, New York 12561 USA (firstname.lastname@example.org)
$20 (free postage within US)
Specify VIDEO or DVD (60 min.)
Check or money order payable to Cancer Awareness Coalition, Inc.
How environmental risk factors affect health more than inherited genes
is discussed in this candid talk by health advocate, Rose Marie Williams,
with suggestions about reducing toxic exposure in and around the home.
Included are contact numbers for inexpensive water testing, pesticide
information, and useful books and pamphlets.